What is an Adventure Story? - Features & Examples

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and experience teaching.

Adventure stories are among the most popular tales, both in terms of sales and the sheer number of existing versions. But what makes an adventure story adventurous?

Up for an Adventure?

Almost everyone has read an adventure story. In an adventure story, someone leaves everything he or she knows, faces danger and excitement along the way, and with a little luck, gets to his or her final destination safely and with a story to tell. Adventure stories have been around since Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. In short, they are engrained into human consciousness. But what exactly makes a story an adventure story? What has to exist to separate a story about a journey and make it adventurous? In this lesson, a number of traits of adventure stories will be examined by looking at how some of the greatest adventure stories ever told fit these archetypes.

Making an Adventure Story

First of all, there are some crucial components that have to exist for a story to be considered an adventure story. Most importantly, something out of the ordinary has to happen to the protagonist. A story about an eight year old going to school is not an adventure story. But if that day, the class was on a field trip to the paddleboat downtown and the protagonist ended up floating down the river? Now, that could be an adventure story.

Secondly, the adventure itself has to take importance. This often means that characterization and setting are sacrificed unless they directly contribute something to the adventure. In The Cay by Theodore Taylor, we know that the protagonist ends up becoming blind before reaching the small island. That makes the adventure much more interesting, because in addition to being put on a deserted isle, now the protagonist is blind, making his challenges much more difficult.

Finally, there is often some element of change that happens in an adventure story. The character grows in a meaningful way or is changed by his or her experiences. This does not always have to be a change in personality- it could be as simple as discovering new friends. Both happen in Star Wars, a film by George Lucas, where over the course of three films Luke Skywalker goes from being a small-time farm boy who sticks closely to his aunt and uncle to becoming a Jedi knight who has a close friendship with his long-lost sister.

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